Author: Carole Mortimer
Manga-ka: Hinoto Mori
Publisher: Harlequin K.K./SOFTBANK Creative Corp.
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Synopsis: “Out of the blue, Leonie is asked by Rachel, a renowned actress, to write her biography. Although she has published a biography once before, she has no idea why Rachel chose her as the author. Her doubts about the job deepen with Rachel’s son, Luke, who for some reason relentlessly intimidates her. As Rachel was unmarried when giving birth to Luke, it was one of the biggest scandals at the time. While being aware of his hostile attitude, Leonie is drawn to his cold green eyes, and she decides to accept the job…”
I’ve read a few Harlequin romance manga before and wasn’t that impressed, so I admit I went into Keeping Luke’s Secret with a bit of a bias against it. To the manga’s credit, it managed to hook me from page one and keep me reading until the end. While there are several gaping holes in the plot, I was more concerned with what would happen next when I was reading rather than the inconsistency in each reveal.
Leonie is a historian who has published a biography of her grandfather. One day out of the blue, a famous movie star asks her to write her biography. One thing I liked about this manga is that it started the story right away, with Leonie meeting Rachel at her mansion. It was this ‘in medias res’ opening that got me interested enough to keep reading.
On page one, Leonie meets Luke, Rachel’s son, and right away they don’t like each other. It’s pretty common in romances for the two leads to dislike each other at first, though at least in Keeping Luke’s Secret they have their reasons. Leonie thinks that Luke is a rude jerk, which is an accurate assessment as Luke is actually trying to push her away.
Luke has his reasons for trying to scare Leonie off. One of the things that will come out in Rachel’s biography is the identity of Luke’s father, and Luke is determined to keep it a secret. As Leonie spends more time working on Rachel’s biography, she and Luke grow closer and Luke becomes a little less mean and arrogant.
However, even as they come to care about each other, there are complications. Leonie is friends with Jeremy, a fellow professor at the university she works at. While they’re not going out, they have a close relationship and Leonie has to examine her feelings to see who she cares about more, Luke or Jeremy. One thing that helps her decision is that while Luke becomes nicer, Jeremy shows his true colours and becomes a bit of a jerk. The manga-ka does a good job of making this transition a believable one. Jeremy starts out as a nice guy, but as Leonie gets more involved with the biography his smiles become more like leers. He drops by Leonie’s house uninvited and seems less like a concerned friend and more like a creep. It helps that he never does anything really bad and become a flat-out villain – instead he’s just a jerk.
One bad thing about writing a review about this story is that it’s made me think more about the plot than is necessary. The more I think about it, the more unbelievable it seems. It turns out that the real reason Rachel wanted Leonie to write her biography was to force Luke to acknowledge his father. We never really delve into Luke’s feelings about his absent dad, leaving a big question mark to Luke’s motivations throughout the book. According to Rachel, Luke’s father doesn’t even know that Luke is his son, which is a plot hole so big that elephants could jump through it. The manga repeatedly states that when Rachel got pregnant and wouldn’t say who the father was, it was a huge scandal. If I were some guy who had been sleeping with a famous actress and it was all over the news that she was preggers, I would probably put two and two together and figure out that I was the dad. Either this guy avoided all media mention of the love of his life, or he has rocks for brains.
Also, while I’m thinking about these things, what exactly does Luke do? There’s some vague mention of him working in the movie business, but all he ever does in the manga is hang around his mother’s house.
The art is cute, in a standard shojo way. The character designs are nice and capture the characters well: Rachel is a dignified older actress not only in looks but in actions, and Jeremy is able to go from boy-next-door to creep without his basic look changing. My favourite though is Leonie. She’s far from ugly (c’mon, this is a Harlequin manga we’re talking about) but at the same time she’s not a stunning beauty either. She has genuinely messy hair and a tomboy’s mannerisms. It’s nice to see a (relatively) plain heroine as the lead in a romance manga.
The panel layouts keep the story going at a quick pace without rushing anything. It’s a delicate balance, but one the manga manages to keep up throughout. The dialogue reads well, though sometimes the text goes outside of the speech bubble.
Keeping Luke’s Secret was better than I expected it to be and I enjoyed reading it. The problem comes afterwards, when you realize that there are more holes than plot.